State

Former Eric Conn employee pleads not guilty to helping fugitive lawyer escape

Curtis Lee Wyatt, left, walked out of federal court in Lexington on Wednesday after being arraigned on charges of helping fugitive former disability lawyer Eric C. Conn escape before being sentenced in a massive fraud case. Wyatt worked for Conn at his firm in Floyd County.
Curtis Lee Wyatt, left, walked out of federal court in Lexington on Wednesday after being arraigned on charges of helping fugitive former disability lawyer Eric C. Conn escape before being sentenced in a massive fraud case. Wyatt worked for Conn at his firm in Floyd County. bestep@herald-leader.com

A former employee of fugitive Eric C. Conn pleaded not guilty Wednesday to helping the disgraced former disability lawyer escape before Conn was to be sentenced in a massive fraud case.

Curtis Lee Wyatt allegedly took several steps to help Conn abscond, including opening a bank account that Conn used to transfer money out of the country and buying a truck for Conn.

Wyatt also crossed the border into Mexico to test security measures in place for people entering from the United States, according to the indictment.

The bank account mentioned in the charges was controlled by a co-conspirator who was not named in the indictment.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the identity of that co-conspirator and on Conn’s suspected whereabouts. The agency is offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest.

The indictment said “other persons” known and unknown to the grand jury were involved in Conn’s getaway.

Fugitive lawyer Eric C. Conn was convicted in a fraud scheme that could have cost the government more than $550 million in Social Security payments. Here's how the onetime king of Eastern Kentucky disability cases ended up on the FBI's most-wanted

Amy Hess, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky, said the agency will continue working diligently to catch Conn, “with the expectation that those who aided in his escape be charged as well.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier appointed Lexington attorney Thomas C. Lyons to represent Wyatt and scheduled his trial for Dec. 18.

Wier allowed Wyatt to remain free before trial under a number of conditions, including home incarceration with electronic monitoring.

Wier also restricted Wyatt’s use of the internet and a cellphone; gave probation officers authority to inspect his devices and monitor his financial accounts; and reminded Wyatt that it’s a crime to attempt to intimidate witnesses.

“It’s going to be a short leash,” Wier said of the conditions.

The federal prosecutor, Dustin Davis, didn’t request jail for Wyatt pending trial.

Conn, who lived in Pikeville and had an office in Floyd County, was once one of the top Social Security disability lawyers in the country, but he admitted in March that he had used fake medical evidence in clients’ cases and had bribed a Social Security judge who approved claims for thousands of people in Eastern Kentucky.

He was on home detention awaiting sentencing when he absconded in June.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced Conn in absentia to 12 years in prison.

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